A Game of Chess with Westminster Abbey
Recently added to our online shop are new chess sets, inspired by statues, figures and artefacts found in and around Westminster Abbey. This set is based on a much larger chess set, sold in the shop many years ago; some of these pieces were incorporated into the design for the downstairs shop extension, and are displayed in specifically designed niches. In order to make the new set, these pieces had to be scanned and then scaled down before being 3D printed in the new smaller size. Once the new size pieces had been created with the 3D printer, moulds were created from which the new chess sets are cast.
The chess sets are made from crushed stone polyresin which is then hand finished to bring out the intricate details of each piece. One set is finished, with some areas painted by hand and other areas left plain with a light coloured wash of paint. The other set has been created in a classic burgundy and cream finish.
The chess sets are made by Studio Anne Carlton (SAC), which started back in 1969 when Anne Finestein created a chess set for her husband who was an avid chess player. When other chess enthusiasts saw it there was great demand for her to make more sets and the business grew from there. In 2014 Ancestors of Dover Limited acquired the rights to manufacture and distribute the SAC range of decorative sets and classic games, together with all the design rights and originals of all the surviving models, and moved production to their own UK factory in Folkestone.
All the pieces of the chess set are inspired by figures of great importance to Westminster Abbey, or statues that can be seen during a visit. The king is based on St Edward the Confessor, the founder of Westminster Abbey and the monarch who was instrumental in building a church on this site. The bishop is based on St Dunstan, also an important figure in the founding of the Abbey as he first brought the Benedictine monks to this site over a thousand years ago. The knight is based on St George, the patron saint of England, who is commemorated in a stained glass window inside Westminster Abbey and also on the Crimea and India Mutiny Memorial in front of the West Towers. The castle piece is based on the West Towers of Westminster Abbey, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and one of the last major additions to the building.
The Queen is based on St Helen, who was reported as finding the true cross in Jerusalem, and the pawn is based on St Roch, who was reported to cure the plague. Both of these saints are commemorated in Westminster Abbey with statues in Henry VII’s Lady Chapel. These statues are part of the largest surviving collection of figure sculptures from early Tudor England. The saints and prophets were chosen by King Henry VII himself and were in place before his death in 1509. St Roch can be found in the second bay and can be seen dressed as a pilgrim with a plague spot on his thigh, and St Helen can be found in the tenth bay wearing a crown with a book resting on a T-cross.